Within the hospitality industry, there has traditionally been a division
between networks that serve guest functions and those that serve
operations and administration, both with respect to data transmission and
voice transmission. In recent years, most hotel and motel chains have
moved in the direction of consolidating multiple functions on networks that
used to be dedicated to one use. Tighter integration of voice and data and of
guest and operations/administration networking is a fast-growing trend.
Choice Hotels International (www.choice.com) is a good example of this
Choice Hotels International (NYSE: CHH) is one of the largest and most
successful lodging companies in the world. It franchises more than 6,100
hotels, representing more than 490,000 rooms, in the United States and
more than 30 countries and territories. The company’s best known brands
include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria
Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, Econo Lodge and
In-House Networking Functions Choice supports two distinct networking functions. A central Web site
enables customers to reserve rooms at any Choice franchise
accommodation. The central reservation system, known as Profit Manager,
automatically finds the most appropriate hotel based on location, price
range, or standard. Individual hotels also take bookings, so there needs to
be a way for hotels and the central system to remain synchronized.
Choice networks also support its franchisees. Choice is in fact a
relatively small company in terms of personnel (about 2000 employees) and
does not own or operate any hotels. All of the establishments under its brand
names are independently owned and pay Choice licensing fees and a royalty
on all sales. In return, they receive a variety of services, including
marketing, quality control, and inventory management. Many of these
services are offered via network, such as allowing managers to order
supplies online and check booking status. This support network is similar to a
corporate intranet but has a higher reliability requirement. The 6100 hotel
managers are, in effect, Choice’s customers, not employees. Thus, the
standards for reliability and performance of the network are high.
In the late 1990s, Choice began to focus on providing a state-of-the-art
global reservation system. At this point, the synchronization of local and
online reservations was done manually. Each hotel provided Choice with a
fixed block of inventory to sell over the central reservation system, with an
average of 30% of capacity. Once that 30% was sold, Profit Manager listed
the hotel as fully booked, even though there might be plenty of rooms
available from the other 70%. The reverse problem also occurred: If the
local reservation system had sold all available rooms except those assigned
to Choice, the local staff had to refuse additional customers or overbook.
Thus, the system was inherently inefficient.
Around this time, Choice moved from a purely telephone-based central
reservation system to a Web-based system. Choice found, as did many
companies, that letting customers serve themselves online saved time and
money. Further, unlike many industries burned in the move to e-commerce,
the travel sector is an ideal match for Web-based services. And the benefits
for travelers are striking. Customers can get an instant list of every room
available with their chosen criteria. They can also view the hotel and, in
some cases, the individual room. In addition, hotel rooms are a typical
example of “distressed” products; like airline seats and theater tickets, they
can’t be stockpiled if left unsold. Thus, they are ideal for using last-minute
special offers and promotions, which can be posted online or e-mailed to
But all of these benefits require full integration between local
reservation systems and the central reservation system. Choice decided to
implement a franchise-wide IP network that provided every American hotel
with a permanent connection to the central Profit Manager database. The
most important criteria for this network were coverage and reliability. The
network needed to reach every franchise and needed to be highly available.
Capacity was not a particular concern, because updates and reservations use
To meet its needs, Choice decided to go with a satellite network
[HARL02, DORN01, UHLA00]. Even within the United States, reliable
universal coverage requires expensive leased lines or dependence on
switched networks that may not always deliver. The situation is far worse
internationally. Satellite networks provide the universal coverage and are in
fact more reliable than the competition. Satellites that use fixed dishes are a
mature, dependable technology. Downtime averages only minutes each
For its initial effort, Choice went to Hughes Network Systems, which set
up a dedicated IP network using two geostationary satellites based at
separate hubs (Figure C10.1). The hub is a ground-based control center that
includes a number of switches and routers. At the hub, Hughes separates
Choice’s traffic from that of its other customers and routes it accordingly.
The Los Angeles hub covers the entire United States via a broad-beam
satellite service. The Germantown hub controls a number of narrower spot
beams that service Alaska and Hawaii and provides extra capacity for major
cities. Each hotel is equipped with a VSAT (very small aperture terminal)
The satellite system has worked well, and Choice has gradually
transitioned operational and administrative functions to the network. For
example, data for settling accounts with travel agents and tracking the
Choice Privilege frequent-stayer program are sent on the satellite network.
Guest Internet Access In 2004, Choice began implementing free high-speed Internet access for all
guests in its Clarion Hotels and Comfort Suites, using 3Com equipment. The
implementation uses an efficient combination of wireless and wired access
within each hotel [3COM04, 3COM06].
To be able to affordably provide Internet service, hotels have
traditionally invested in expensive and disruptive construction, including the
installation of additional cabling and forcing the closing of income-producing
rooms. To recover their costs, some hotels charge their guests for Internet
access – which is exactly the situation Choice Hotels wished to avoid. To
allow its franchises to affordably fulfill its mandate, Choice Hotels needed a
powerful, low-cost network solution that could be installed quickly and easily.
Access is provided in wireless and wired modes. For wireless access,
each hotel implements Wi-Fi that serves all guest rooms. Using the 3Com
Wi-Fi network, guests are able to check e-mail, exchange files, and browse
the Web at speeds up to 54 Mbps. Built-in encryption and support for
multiple security options help safeguard data as they travel over the wireless
network. With each access point supporting up to 256 users, setting up
conference room connectivity requires no additional wiring or IT assistance
to provide ample bandwidth even to large groups.
Users without wireless capabilities can plug their laptops into 3Com
wireless LAN workgroup bridges in guest rooms and hotel data centers for
Free-to-Guest Television Services In 2011, Choice International selected Bulk TV & Internet (www.bulktv.com )
as its television services provider for franchise hotel owners of the
company’s 11 brands [PRNE11]. Bulk TV, headquartered in Raleigh, NC
provides satellite TV, Internet services, and bulk TV (Television plus Internet
services). The company serves hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, correctional
facilities, fitness centers, and the collegiate housing market. In addition to
television programming, the company offers high-speed Internet access,
virus control, bandwidth throttling, VPN support, managed data services,
Bulk TV & Internet is the leading provider of DIRECTV services to the
hospitality industry. DIRECTV is one of the largest satellite television service
providers in the United States; the Dish Network is its major competitor.
Choice International’s long-standing use of VSAT’s and satellite-based
communication services contributed toward their choice of Bulk TV &
Internet for free-to-guest in room television programming. The wide range
of HD programming, a la carte programming, 4/7 technical support,
competitive monthly rates were also attractive features.
Bulk TV & Internet custom builds and installs each of its customers’
systems and uses several enterprise-grade solutions, including fiber, T1,
DS3 and carrier Ethernet to satisfy their Internet needs. Most of the
systems that they build include remote monitoring capabilities that will notify
the Tech Support Department at Bulk TV & Internet about connectivity
issues before guests or residents are aware of any problems.
Discussion Points 1. Perhaps the major drawback to a satellite-based system is latency. The
delays can be noticeable on some online applications. Discuss what issues this might raise for the Choice suite of applications.
2. What issues is Choice likely to experience as it expands its network to
full global reach?
3. Do some Internet research to identify the reasons why providers like Bulk TV & Internet use terrestrial circuits rather than satellite links to support Internet access for their customers. Why are terrestrial connections preferred?
Sources [3COM04] 3COM Corp. Choice Hotels International Teams Up with 3COM to Offer Free Wireless Internet Access at Clarion Hotels and Comfort Suites. 3COM Press Release, February 18, 2004. http://www.3com.com/
[3COM06] 3COM Corp. Case Study. Choice Hotels International, Inc. U.S. 2006. http://www.3com.com/. [DORN01] Dornan, A. “Hotel Chain Reserves Room on Space Network.” Network Magazine, January, 2001. [HARL02] Harler, C. “Bring it On!” Hospitality Technology Magazine, January/February 2002. [PRNE11 PRNewswire.com. “Bulk TV Awarded Qualified Vendor Status with Choice Hotels International. October 27, 2011. Retrieved online from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bulk-tv-awarded- qualified-vendor-status-with-choice-hotels-international- 132689763.html. [UHLA00] Uhland, V. “The Turbo-Charged Enterprise.” Satellite Broadband, November 2001.
- CASE STUDY 10
- In-House Networking Functions
- Guest Internet Access
- Free-to-Guest Television Services
- Discussion Points